Gerard Baker Out As Wall Street Journal Editor: “The Time … Had Long Passed,” One Industry Observer Says

Seth Wenig, AP Photo

Gerard Baker is out as editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, after a five-year period that saw conflict with the newsroom over its coverage of the Trump administration.

Baker will be replaced by Journal veteran Matt Murray, the publication’s executive editor who is well regarded in the newsroom. Murray assumes the helm on June 11.

News Corp. said Baker will serve as the Journal’s Editor-at-Large, writing, hosting the publication’s conferences and events and appearing in a Wall Street Journal-branded news and interview show on Fox Business Network.

Today’s announcement credits Baker with increasing the publication’s daily circulation and expanding its digital reach at a time when the newspaper industry is contracting. But Baker also was the source of consternation in the newsroom about his oversight of the Journal‘s coverage of President Trump, which some on staff thought pulled its punches.

The New York Times reported one critique of over-coverage of a 2017 Phoenix rally as sparking concern.

“Sorry. This is commentary dressed up as news reporting,” Baker wrote to a group of Journal reporters and editors, in response to a draft of the article, the Times reported. “Could we please just stick to reporting what he said rather than packaging it in exegesis and selective criticism?”

It’s unclear whether such misgivings would prompt a shakeup at the top of the Journal‘s masthead, particularly at a publication that is the crown jewel of Rupert Murdoch’s publishing empire. Still, news industry analyst Ken Doctor said the Journal has suffered a talent drain as editors and reporters left in frustration amid what he described as an “incomplete mandate” to cover the news.

“The time for Gerry Baker’s departure had long passed,” said Doctor. “Especially in the Trump era, the Journal has fallen behind its peers — the Times and the Post — in taking on the news of the day. While it can count a number of well-reported national political news scoops, the action has clearly moved to the Post and Times.”

Doctor said that in a robber-baron era of corruption and greed, the Journal hasn’t used its best abilities — as the nation’s top business news organizations, with dozens of best-in-the-breed journalists — to adequately cover these times. “That’s a damning indictment,” he said.

Baker’s successor will need to re-establish the Journal’s credibility, Doctor said.

Murray is viewed internally as a solid journalist who has been committed to helping the Journal navigate the industry’s difficult digital transition. Indeed, his tenure at the newspaper pre-dates Murdoch’s acquisition of the Journal through the 2007 purchase of Dow Jones.

He served as deputy editor-in-chief since 2013, and, before that, as deputy managing editor. He joined Dow Jones in 1994 as a reporter for the Pittsburgh bureau and in 1997, he moved to the Journal’s Money & Investing section, where he covered banking. He was promoted to the news desk in 2004, and later served as a deputy national editor and national news editor.

“I thank Gerry for his contribution to the great growth of the Journal in recent years, and look forward to his continuing work with us in his new roles,” Dow Jones CEO William Lewis said in a statement. “And I know Matt is the right person to take the reins and help us seize the great, new opportunities before us. We see many fruits from our work in embracing digital transformation and a deeper membership model, and there is much yet to do.”

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